Sarawak Longhouse Homestay,
Borneo, Borneo (Sarawak)
Info : Sarawak Longhouse Homestay
Stay in a working longhouse with resident tribespeople going about their day-to-day life. Expect a friendly welcome and lovely hosts, but a basic stay for the night. Mattresses, mosquitoes net, sleeping sheets are provided.
You will usually stay with the Iban people who populate much of Sarawak. Each Iban community will have its own dialect and different groups will normally be unable to understand each other - much like if you put the Bretons and the Welsh together - they have no idea what the other is saying. Different groups will also have variations in religion, some Ibans for example converted to Christianity when colonial powers controlled much of Borneo and others adapted their traditional Animist beliefs with European relgion. Your stay in this respect will be rather unique, you could spend your holiday in five different longhouse homestays in Sarawak and have five rather different experiences.
If you are lucky, one of the various annual festivals could be occuring across your stay. These usual revolve around the various stages of rice cultivation as this is the way tribespeople make their living. The celebrations vary but one can always expect rice wine 'tuak' flowing and a merry atmosphere.
You'll notice the Ibans like to tattoo themsleves - see the wonderful picture of the old gentleman in his longhouse above - this is largely to protect the bearer from evil spirits and bad fortune.
Historically the Ibans were reveared for their fighting and headhunting (don't worry - they don't do this anymore!) For a greater insight into Iban life, have a look at the video section of this page and watch the short documentary by Uzair Sawal. He tells the story of his journey back to his roots. As a Singaporian Iban he goes back to Borneo on a traditional journey of becoming a man, known as 'Bejalai'.
We all remarked on how well tourism blended in to the local community in a positive way. At no point did we ever feel exploited or taken advantage of. We felt privileged to visit the Penan tribe in Mulu and enjoyed the market there without any pressure to spend money. Visiting Abai village and planting the trees was also a great experience for all ages of our party. Again, a privilege.